On the Tracks

African American Heritage  •  Fellowships

Virginia Humanitites

145 Ednam Drive Charlottesville, VA

The African American Women of Gordonsville and the Train

“On the Tracks” is part of the book manuscript Riding Jane Crow: African American Women and the American Railroad, a social and literary history of nineteenth and early twentieth-century black female train travel. Although the railroad was one of the most significant forms of transportation in the U.S., it has rarely been examined through the experiences of African American women. Riding Jane Crow corrects this absence. “On the Tracks” will discuss the spatial politics associated with “waiter carriers,” a group of African American women who sold food to train passengers at a Gordonsville railroad depot. The women actively sold food, especially fried chicken, from before the Civil War to about 1925.

Who were some of these women? How did their success lead to Gordonsville becoming known as “The Fried Chicken Capital of the World?” Why did they have to sell, not on the depot platform but on the very railroad tracks? And what factors may have contributed to their termination around 1925?

Virginia Humanities Fellow Miriam Thaggert is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Iowa, with joint appointments in the Department of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies and the Program in African American Studies.

This talk is free and open to the public. A casual lunch will be served.